Raving about Raz Kids!

Raz Kids is an amazing reading program to utilize within your classroom! Raz Kids is an online guided reading program that offers e-books, online reading quizzes, and downloadable stories. It is geared towards K-Grade 5 and has 29 different levels of reading difficulty, This tool can be utilized both in the classroom and at home!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcOMiudSAqM  

Check out the link above!

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The website is very user and kid friendly! Teachers, or parents, set up the students accounts. They can preset each account to the “just right” reading level for that student. Students log on, using picture codes so they don’t need to remember a wordy password. They can then choose from an abundance of different books that are all set the the level they are at.

Each student has a robot attached to their account. The more they read, the more options, they can to change and alter their robot. The students have the option to read them story themselves, have it read out loud, and then after they can do a comprehension quiz. The more they do, the more points they accumulate which means they can do more to their robot.

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Raz Kids offers lots of neat features. There is a button on their website called “Teachers Corner”, where it offers support in leveling, assessing, using the program and more. It has online running records where teachers can assess their student online. Teachers can also advance their student, or move their student, to a different level if they find their reading is ready for a change. Raz Kids is very easily accessable so students can read in class, at home, and on the go!

 

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Raz Kids is from the company Learning A-Z. This company also has programs, Science A-Z, Writing A-Z, Vocabulary A-Z, and Reading A-Z.  I personally think the Science A-Z program looks the most worthwhile due to it combining science lessons and reading, two birds, one stone!!

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The only downfall of these programs would be the price. Each individual program costs around 100 dollars for a year membership. If you had funding or the money for these programs I would say they are, without a doubt, worth it.

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All the programs offer amazing resources and add additional ways to incorporate technology into your classroom that are engaging for your students!

 

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More from “Outside Our Window”

In her book, Liz outlines a number of simple techniques that can be used outside to work on reading, writing and word work. Her students usually carry their own tools, journals and books, such as clipboard, nature journals and mini books for writing and sketching. They might draw and label a forest object or begin writing a story in a small group or at their sit spot (a personal space where students go for a short about of time to observe and sketch everyday). Students can also be asked to read at their sit spots. However, just like inside the classroom students have to bring a good fit book and work on building their stamina. Liz suggest starting with one minute and working your way up to ten minutes in Kindergarten.

During word work time, students can form a circle to play rhyming games, such as picking an object from a basket or the forest and saying a nonsense word that rhymes (ex. cone, pone).

Sticks can also be used to write names, letters and words in dirt or sand or chalk can be used to practice the same things if there is cement near by.

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Does mindfulness have a place in schools?

This past year, I have become obsessed with yoga, meditation and mindfulness. I have been practicing yoga for a few years now, but I really delved deep into yoga this year after I suffered a fairly serious sports injury. I relied heavily on yoga and meditation to keep me active and sane when I was not able to do any type of rigorous physical activity. This time in my life forced me to take  a step back and re-evaluate what is important to me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to stick to yoga and meditation once I got better, but it turns out it has become a huge part of who I am in my personal life and in my professional life. For a long time I couldn’t explain why yoga, meditation and mindfulness is important to me. I knew it was important, but I couldn’t articulate it- and that bothered me because I love to talk.

I was reading a really insightful book over the winter break called “Braving the Wilderness” by Brené Brown. This book left me speechless many times. I would go to sleep after reading a chapter, and would be up for hours thinking about what I just read (that doesn’t happen often for me).

My favourite chapter is called “Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.” In this chapter she recalls a experience with Dr. Joan Halifax- a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, activist, and author. She explains that they were doing an event together, and they were both feeling exhausted before the meet-and-greet. She was going despite her exhaustion when Dr. Halifax suggested that they should both take a break a rest. She explains:

“Tonight we will exhale and teach. Now it’s time to inhale. There is the in-breath and there is the out-breath, and it’s easy to believe that we must exhale all the time, without ever inhaling. But the inhale is absolutely essential if you want to continue to exhale”(p. 148).

When I read this, I realized that this was exactly my answer. Yoga has forced me to become a more balanced and thoughtful person. It was essential in my recovery, because it forced me to take time, let my mind relax, and to learn how to appreciate quietness.

This is also the reason why I think that yoga, mindfulness and meditation have a place in schools. Teaching students the skills to self-regulate and calm down will create a generation mentally strong and healthy people.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Classroom Without Tom

After Tom moving schools I looked at the classroom dynamic. I was shocked to see the difference that it made. Work blocks were quieter, support time was less, and the students all worked well together with no complaints about each other. Tom moving had completely changed the dynamic of this classroom which made me think is this for better?

There are students within this class that had been in the same classroom as Tom since kindergarten, this meant six years of “interruptions” within their learning. These students were now old enough to acknowledge that they could not learn with his interruptions and they were being vocal about it within the classroom. As much as my sponsor and Tom’s support teacher worked with him on not interrupting, it was very hard for Tom to understand that his actions were disruptive.

This made me question a lot about inclusion. I ask myself if it is better that Tom is no longer in this classroom but rather in a classroom that can cater to his needs. I ask this because he was such a great asset to my grade six, seven practicum class. Tom added an exciting aspect to the classroom, he always had exciting facts to share, and loved to follow along with reading. There were many positive aspects to having him within the classroom but I question if he was meeting his full potential. I question inclusion because he could not successfully be in the classroom for a full day causing my sponsor to have to remove him from the classroom. Once removed from the classroom he is now not included, this makes me question “did we try everything”. At the end of the day we could not accommodate what he needed because he was not successfully learning.

I am constantly questioning if his move was the right thing to do. The school all seemed on board to supporting him make the move. The classroom has now had a positive change which can be seen through group work, independent work, and the playground. If there has been such a positive impact is this the best move, is it morally right, does Tom feel excluded? I am looking forward to learning more about inclusion in order to answer a few of the questions I am having.

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The Classroom Without Tom

After Tom moving schools I looked at the classroom dynamic. I was shocked to see the difference that it made. Work blocks were quieter, support time was less, and the students all worked well together with no complaints about each other. Tom moving had completely changed the dynamic of this classroom which made me think is this for better?

There are students within this class that had been in the same classroom as Tom since kindergarten, this meant six years of “interruptions” within their learning. These students were now old enough to acknowledge that they could not learn with his interruptions and they were being vocal about it within the classroom. As much as my sponsor and Tom’s support teacher worked with him on not interrupting, it was very hard for Tom to understand that his actions were disruptive.

This made me question a lot about inclusion. I ask myself if it is better that Tom is no longer in this classroom but rather in a classroom that can cater to his needs. I ask this because he was such a great asset to my grade six, seven practicum class. Tom added an exciting aspect to the classroom, he always had exciting facts to share, and loved to follow along with reading. There were many positive aspects to having him within the classroom but I question if he was meeting his full potential. I question inclusion because he could not successfully be in the classroom for a full day causing my sponsor to have to remove him from the classroom. Once removed from the classroom he is now not included, this makes me question “did we try everything”. At the end of the day we could not accommodate what he needed because he was not successfully learning.

I am constantly questioning if his move was the right thing to do. The school all seemed on board to supporting him make the move. The classroom has now had a positive change which can be seen through group work, independent work, and the playground. If there has been such a positive impact is this the best move, is it morally right, does Tom feel excluded? I am looking forward to learning more about inclusion in order to answer a few of the questions I am having.

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Inquiry Video

A short introductory video explaining and exploring my inquiry question.

Key Topic of Interest and Context:                                                                                          How can I use technology to effectively teach atypical learners to read?

Central​ ​Inquiry​ ​Question:
How can we integrate assistive technology to teach reading to diverse learners in an inclusive classroom

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Classroom Rules

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One classroom management idea that i’ve heard from a few people is to make a set of “classroom rules” with your students. The trick is to make up the rules together with your class. This not only gives them responsibility, but allows everyone to discuss these rules together to determine what is fair. When students are a direct part of the process, it allows for easier comprehension. Students won’t just be listening to you explain the expectations, they will be direct participants: brainstorming and discussing!

You could do this on a white board, but I think it would even be more effective by doing it on a big piece of chart paper, where you can then laminate it and display it in your classroom so you and your class can always see it.

Doing this as a class really builds a sense of community and reinforces the power of collaboration. Coming up with a set of class rules is something I may try with my class during my practicum; I think it would work, and that my students would respond well to it!

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5 Quick Tips

I came across this site that recounts a teacher’s first few years of being an educator, and how they dealt with classroom management. They have some pretty good ideas, and it was also an enjoyable read.

They mentioned doing fun activities that are unique to your own class, which is a great idea. I also loved how they listed some examples from other teachers below to give us ideas.

Check out 5 Quick Tips for Secondary Classroom Management That Actually (I Promise You!) Work !

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Spelfabet

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                                                                                                              Big elephants can’t always understand small elephants

When we spell out a word, we usually sound it out right? Well in the case of some words like  “because”, it doesn’t really work. “Cause” can be spelled/sounded out as “Cos”, “Caws”  and in addition to that the last ‘e’ is silent! Spelfabet is a really cool memorization technique which uses sentences to help spell out words. If you haven’t realized it yet, the above sentence is the spelling of “because”.

Here are some activities, games, workbooks and even Free stuff related to Spelfabet that might be useful to you! Spelfabet.com

The article also highlighted some interesting points regarding spelling:

  • When looking for a job, 75% of employers would reconsider hiring someone due to bad spelling/ grammar.
  • Learners require teaching that includes manipulating phonemes, segmenting & blending, small group work to be successful. Feedback is also important.
  • Students who see word spelling learn the meanings easier.
  • Memorize sight words a few at a time. Also use the words in writing and using it correctly often.

I really like this strategy, especially for younger grades because I have noticed how well my K/1’s are at remembering ever movement and song lyric to Jolly Phonics. I think learning phrases to help them spell would be very beneficial and I would like to try this in my practicum class for sure.

image sourced by clker.com

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Common Curriculum

The Common Curriculum Project sought to make planning more flexible. It is an extensive lesson and unit planning tool which includes templates you can customize to your liking. I implemented the core areas of VIU’s lesson planning template to test out the program for myself, and will add the rest in for use in my practicum. For other students that want to keep everything in one place, all lesson plans can be downloaded as a PDF – easy to send to your supervisor 😉

Parts of a lesson can be quickly rearranged, activities you didn’t finish can be dragged into tomorrow’s lesson, and lessons can be moved forward or back days. It’s a relatively simple tool to use to keep lesson and schedule planning all in one place. Here’s a quick preview of some of the features mentioned.

You can add and edit all classes for which you want to include lessons:

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You can customize your lesson planning templates according to each lesson. I played around with this feature a little bit and designed a few templates to assign to different subject areas as seen below:

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Once you’ve added your classes in, you can view your schedule in day, week or month view. Here’s a sample of a day menu:

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You can expand each of these subject headings and plan and edit your lessons right on the day’s schedule. It looks like this:

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The best part about this program, although designed to align to the American Common Core curriculum, is that it is completely integrated with the new BC Curriculum! Within each lesson plan, there is an option to “Search & Add Standards.” Under BC, each subject is laid out with its’ big ideas, content and competencies. You simply need to select the ones you are teaching to in your lesson. Here’s what the PE 2 one looked like when putting in my Balance lesson:

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There are even more features that I have not covered here, but most are available to premium members. If schools wanted to implement the program, they can set up servers containing the virtual classes for every teacher, allowing teachers to collaborate within the program and borrow lesson plans from each other.

I would consider this program relatively user-friendly, though it does take a bit to get used to. The best part is each feature has a built-in help video as seen in most of the screenshots above. To sign up for an account or to learn more about the program, you can visit their website at www.commoncurriculum.com.

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